The Competition Blues, or Wow – A New Baby!

Hi Mamas,

Our first born is approaching the 2-year-old mark, and I’m pregnant with #2 — due in August.  I have to admit that our daughter has been the little princess around here, for parents and grandparents both.  What can we do to prepare her for ‘the competition’?  We want her to adore her new brother or sister, not resent him/her.

Can you help?

Thanks!  Hanna

Dear Hanna,

This is such an exciting time for you all!  Going from 3 to 4 is a big leap, and the more you include princess #1 in the process, the happier the transition will be.

As time and your pregnancy moves ahead, she will sense the energy and focus that you and Dad are placing on the new baby and that may be a bit tough on her. But there’s lots you can do to have her join in the excitement that will make life easier.

When you talk about the new baby, give her a concrete way to know when to expect ‘the package’.  Two-year-olds have a limited sense of time. so you may want to tie it to something like ‘when the tomato plants are ripe’ or ‘at the end of summertime’.  Having a calendar in a prominent place, and showing her the weeks and months as they pass can help.

In the meantime, try to keep her routine as normal as possible.  Any big day-to-day changes should happen well before the baby’s born, if possible.

She may ask where the baby is now or where it comes from.  Realize that her questions are meant literally.  She doesn’t want to know about sex, but is asking you for a location and transportation plan.  Follow her lead, and give answers in terms she can understand without excess detail.

There are lots of activities you can do together to warm her up to the idea of having this new little creature in the house:

> Ask if your birth hospital has a sib preparation class. Many do, and they make it fun for the big sister.

> Look at her baby pictures and talk about how small the new baby will be.  Ask if she thinks the new baby will have her smile/hair/eye color?

> Have her help think of baby names.  We guarantee you’ll be laughing your head off.  DON’T promise to use her suggestions.

> Bring her to a doctor’s appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat or see an ultrasound.

> Read age-appropriate books about childbirth. Your local library should have several to choose from.

> Visit friends or family with newborns.

Above all, let her know she’ll always be special to your family, and that no one can ever take her place as the first little princess.  Your attitude will be a huge factor in predicting hers.  If she gets that you’re excited and joyful about her impending big-sisterhood (as opposed to anxious and guilty), she’ll feel that way too.

In spite of your best efforts, those early days with baby #2 will be an adjustment for all of you.  Hang on to your sense of humor and never fear!  Your Mamas will have more tips for you when you need ’em.

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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One response to “The Competition Blues, or Wow – A New Baby!”

  1. Paige

    Great article – thank you for the advice on welcoming baby #2!

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